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How the Minds Behind Hitman Are Mutating the XCOM Formula

How the Minds Behind Hitman Are Mutating the XCOM Formula
From IGN - April 2, 2018
By Tom Marks

I wasnt sure what to make of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden when I first saw its cinematic reveal trailer, mostly because of the giant duck. Based on a classic Swedish pen and paper RPG, it gave a glimpse of a very strange kind of post apocalypse. And while the trailer was cool, it didnt really tell me what kind of game it was. But after seeing Mutants mix of real-time exploration and XCOM-inspired combat in action, I knew the duck didnt stop there.

Mutant is being made by a small Swedish team called The Bearded Ladies, and while you may have never heard that name, youve definitely heard of the last game they worked on. About half the studio came over from Io Interactives Hitman team, including Hitmans game director David Skarin and lead level designer Lee Varley. So it should come as no surprise that a key part of Mutant is stealth. Or more specifically, using real time stealth to set up characters before you spring your trap and initiate combat.

Once you do, Mutant goes from real-time to full-on XCOM-style turn-based combat. Just as youd expect, its grid-based with every unit getting to move and shoot once per turn. There are special abilities to use, different weapons or items to try, a bunch of different and deadly enemies to fight, and, of course, a whole lot of hit percentage chances waiting to break your heart. But the way Mutant seamlessly switches between turn-based and real time before and after fights was exciting every time I saw it happen. Its just not something Ive seen done with XCOM-like combat before.

I know Im making the comparison a lot but, to be clear, Mutant doesnt feel like an XCOM clone. It does a great job of taking that formula and mutating it into something new. An important twist beyond the already mentioned real-time exploration is that your units arent randomly generated. Instead they are unique, set characters that you choose from a pool of around a half dozenand Mutants description as a post-human world sets it in colorful reality where giant animals are average fair. Each character can be upgraded and customized through individual mutation skill-trees, and death doesnt take them out of the game permanently. Its a big change, and one that emphasizes Mutants focus on this being more of a story-driven game than the randomness and replayability XCOM is built to provide.

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